Even though autism can be identified by age 2, most kids go undiagnosed until after age 4. Now, advocates are working to change that and they’re getting a little help from “Sesame Street.”

Autism Speaks is launching a new public awareness campaign aimed at encouraging parents to get their children screened early for autism. The initiative includes ads featuring Julia, a “Sesame Street” muppet who is 4-years-old and on the spectrum.

Ads will appear online, in print, outdoor and on television through a partnership with the Ad Council, Autism Speaks said. The materials will direct people to a website that’s available in English and Spanish where they can learn more about autism and find resources.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

“There is considerable work to be done in overcoming obstacles that may delay a diagnosis — the first step toward improved future outcomes,” said Angela Geiger, president and CEO of Autism Speaks. “With this new campaign, we hope to give families the tools they need to identify early signs, feel empowered to get their children screened and seek support if they need it.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for autism at ages 18 and 24 months. With prompt screening, advocates say that children can be diagnosed and access intervention services early leading to better outcomes.

In addition to appearing in Autism Speaks’ new autism awareness campaign, “Sesame Street” is also bringing more attention to Julia, a character that the venerable children’s show introduced online in 2015 and on its television program in 2017.

New content unveiled this month on a “Sesame Street” website dedicated to autism highlights Julia’s family.

“We’re thrilled to expand Julia’s world with her parents, big brother and her adorable dog, Rose, in our new resources,” said Sherrie Westin, president of global impact and philanthropy at Sesame Workshop. “Children with autism often face unique challenges, as do their parents and siblings. But every family faces challenges of some sort, which is why we are focusing on what all families have in common.”

Julia will also be at the center of a “Sesame Street” episode airing on HBO and PBS KIDS on Monday, April 8. In the show, Elmo, Abby Cadabby and Alan help Julia feel less scared about getting a haircut, something many children with autism struggle with.